Could the game really be up for 'The Sun'?

Former 'NoTW' journalist Tom Latchem cannot believe the same fate awaits colleagues on Murdoch's daily red-top juggernaut

If you had told me a year ago that the News Of The World would shut down, and News International was refusing to rule out The Sun going the same way, I'd have laughed in your face. Never. Not Rupert Murdoch's pride of joy. Not the two biggest, most fearsome newspapers in the world.

But, after the News of The World was axed in July following revelations that it hacked the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, and after James Murdoch, chairman of News International, refused last week to guarantee the future of The Sun should similar allegations arise there, that is the position we now find ourselves in.

The ramifications of Sun reporter Jamie Pyatt's arrest last week are huge. His detention for allegedly paying police officers for stories has the potential to bring down Britain's biggest daily. No longer is alleged criminal activity confined to the NoTW. Senior News International executives are hoping the police inquiry into Pyatt won't engulf The Sun – or, worse, broaden out into phone hacking; they have started an internal investigation to prevent a deeper scrutiny of the paper.

It does not surprise me that the corporation handed over a dossier against Pyatt to the authorities. This, remember, is a company that axed 220 jobs to save the skin of one woman: Rebekah Brooks, the chief executive who resigned days after the NoTW closed.

Pyatt's arrest highlights again the ruthless survival mentality of the Murdoch clan: it is in damage-limitation mode again, as another of its newspapers finds itself in danger of self-combusting.

This ruthlessness was on display last week in the Commons select committee battle of James Murdoch against Colin Myler and Tom Crone. Myler and Crone have given so much to the Murdoch dynasty. Crone was a devoted, and brilliant, lawyer at News International for two decades. He could have earned much more money elsewhere, but chose to remain out of love for the company. Myler, a man loyal to his staff, is said to have taken the post as NoWT editor only to help steady the ship – seemingly as a favour to Rupert Murdoch – when he had no financial or personal need to do so. Yet, in the cut-throat world of News International, these decent men have been sold out by the Murdochs, who are now fighting to save their own reputations.

Hearing what is happening at The Sun newsroom brings back memories of the weeks and months before the NoTW shut down. Now, as then, there is a desperate backs-to-the-wall mentality among staff as management attempts to shake off the paper's negative past and seems prepared to offer up sacrificial lambs to protect the company.

Even the excuse being churned out by senior management to journalists, whose past work is being scrutinised in minute detail, is similar: "If we don't co-operate, the police will come in anyway, using search warrants."

It is the same spiel they used when the NoTW was in its final throes. It failed to work then, and the fear is that it won't work this time. I should know – I was one of the innocent journalists who lost their jobs: we were treated like common criminals during that astonishing week last July.

On the surface, staff at The Sun remain full of bravado. "It'll never happen," one told me. "Can you imagine a Britain without The Sun?" But in the days before the NoTW shut down, before the Dowler revelations, we too felt invincible. "How can they possibly shut a great British institution like the NoTW?" we asked each other. Well they can, and they did.

The brutal truth is that none of Murdoch's papers is safe. Sure, he loves the print media. He bought The Sun in 1969 and turned it into a tabloid juggernaut. But you do not become a multi-billionaire mogul on sentiment. And James Murdoch has no affection for newspapers. He is far more business-like and sees The Sun for what it is: a tiny part of a gigantic news operation. As such, he will have no qualms in killing it off if it starts to damage the rest of the company.

My friends at The Sun talk of a paralysis preventing them doing the great work which saw the paper become by far the most successful daily in the country. This isn't helped by the threat that any reporter caught breaching the Bribery Act, by paying sources who have picked up stories from their workplaces, will be handed over to police and suspended until the case is resolved.

Sun journalists are furious, and nervous, about what is happening to their beloved paper – and they have every right to be. Not only have they seen a valued colleague arrested, they feel the company is punishing people for doing what was once demanded – getting the story at all costs. Again, I know how they feel.

The News International hierarchy created an atmosphere where journalists knew defeat was not an option. This encouraged the law-breaking that was first exposed at the NoTW. But to hang those same journalists out to dry to save the company leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of those who remain. I really feel for them. Working under the scrutiny and intense pressure of a police investigation, as I did for three years, is exhausting.

I only hope that, unlike the NoTW, The Sun manages to survive. Because I firmly believe the paper still has an important role to play in British society, and its team of brilliant journalists – many of whom I am lucky to count as close friends – are a fantastic bunch who deserve to be treated better by News International.

Tom Latchem was a journalist on the 'News of The World' from 2008 to 2011

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Web Developer - ASP.NET, C#, MVC - London

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Web Developer -...

Ashdown Group: .NET Developer : ASP.NET , C# , MVC , web development

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits - see advert: Ashdown Group: .N...

Guru Careers: 3D Package Designer / 3D Designer

£25 - 30K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an exceptional 3D Package Designer / 3...

Guru Careers: Interior Designer

£Competitive: Guru Careers: We are seeking a strong Middleweight / Senior Inte...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor